5 Signs You’re Dealing with a Dark Empath

Hey, Psych2Goers! Welcome back to another personality article! We’re going to talk about empathy and empaths, but did you know there’s a dark side to empathy? In 2015, Bubandt and Willerslev found this negative side to empathy. A dark empath is someone who uses their understanding of others’ emotions and thoughts to “…manipulate, seduce, deceive, and dehumanize others…” (Bubandt and Willersley, 2015). So, how do you know if someone is a dark empath? Here are 8 signs you’re dealing with a dark empath!

Side note: This video is not made to attack anyone who may display these signs or anyone diagnosed with a narcissistic/psychopathic mental disorder, but rather to understand them and bring more awareness to the topic! Be sure to reach out to a mental health professional to explore and discuss these topics.

Sign #1: All three traits of the Dark Triad are present in their personality.

We’re going Psychology 101 on you today! The Personality Inventory (PID-5) for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) states that the three traits in the Dark Triad are:

  • Narcissism – a need for praise and attention, feeling more important than others
  • Psychopathy (in the DSM-5 as antisocial personality disorder) – not caring about what happens to others, using manipulation, not remorseful feelings
  • Machiavellianism – being cynical, abusive, or vindictive

When all three of these personality traits are present, we get a dark empath.

Sign #2: They have a malicious sense of humor.

When you hang out with friends, it’s fun to make jokes and laugh, but is one of your friends always making you the punchline of the joke? Back in high school, I had a friend, we’ll call her Nancy. Nancy would always find ways to make fun of me or get me to act crazy in front of people knowing I had Generalized Anxiety Disorder. One day, in our high school cafeteria, we sat down with our trays. Once we did, I realized I had forgotten to grab a drink. By the time I had returned to the table, my tray and food were gone. I spent the entire lunch period begging them to give me my food back, but they wouldn’t. When the lunch period ended, they told me to look in the garbage. There, sitting on top of the garbage was my lunch. They laughed saying it was a joke, but it wasn’t very funny to me.

If you have a friend who constantly puts you in these positions or reveals embarrassing information about you to others, please do not continue to allow this person around you. This is not healthy behavior nor healthy to be around.

Sign #3: They‘re Prince/Princess Charming until…

When you’re dealing with a dark empath, you may notice a disconnect. They’re… cheerful? Yes! Dark empaths are witty, charming, funny, affectionate, and so on until you are alone and/or you don’t give them what they want. Think about your current or a past relationship. How do you act alone? With friends? Around your significant other? You probably act pretty similar across all three groups, right? What about your significant other? Do they act attentive, sweet, and happy when you’re around others, then cold, distant, and condescending when you’re alone? If you told family about how your S.O. treats you behind closed doors, would they say “What?? But they’re so sweet. They would NEVER do that.”

This is a sign of dark empathy. They have created a persona, a character, that they use around mutual family and friends. That way, they can manipulate you or guilt you with this Jekyll and Hyde act.

Sign #4: They get upset when others are experiencing something positive.

When a loved one of mine has good news, my go to is to get food of some kind to celebrate their achievement. To me, it’s really important to stop and actually have a mini celebration to commemorate that thing, no matter how small or big. Life goes fast, so we need to stop and enjoy. Dark empaths would not agree with me…unless it’s their achievement we’re celebrating. Dark empaths have a sense of narcissism to them which makes them feel more important than anyone else. Therefore, if they’re not having fun or receiving an award/achievement, NO ONE should.

A dark empath may show their feelings by making fun of the person of honor, downplaying their achievement, displaying inappropriate emotions, or removing themselves from the situation all together.

Sign #5: They love to gossip.

Gossip is a tricky thing. Whether you like to gossip or not, a lot of us are guilty of listening or spreading gossip (sometimes without meaning to). When it comes to gossip, dark empaths are social butterflies! They know the who’s who, the what’s what, and they have all the hottest tea to go with it. And not just are they an archive of stories, they tell everyone and anyone who will listen. Because gossip is something that a majority of people will listen to for a sense of inclusion, a dark empath has an unlimited audience who will hang on their every word. Most of all a dark empath’s conversations will be centered around gossip.

I don’t know about you all, but just writing this made me feel gross, kind of like how dealing with a dark empath can make you feel. I think I need to go light some incense or something. Did this article make you feel icky or think of someone in your life? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you very much for reading! As always, keep your eye on Psi for more Psych2Go content!

Want more info on dark empaths? Check out our video 5 Things Dark Empaths Don’t Want You To Know

The references used in and to compose this article are listed below.

Brenner, G. H. (2020, August 1). Introducing the dark empath. Psychology Today. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/experimentations/202008/introducing-the-dark-empath-0

Bubandt, N., & Willerslev, R. (2015). The dark side of empathy: Mimesis, deception, and the magic of alterity. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 57(1), 5–34. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0010417514000589

Davies, J. (2021, August 28). 8 signs of a dark empath: Probably the most dangerous personality type. Learning Mind. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.learning-mind.com/dark-empath-signs/

Gillette, H., & Lawrenz, L. (2022, February 9). What is a dark empath? Psych Central. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/health/what-is-a-dark-empath#vs-psychopathy

Naftulin, J. (2022, March 26). A dark empath can use your feelings to manipulate you, according to experts. here are 4 signs you may be dealing with one. Insider. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.insider.com/dark-empath-traits-manipulation-pointed-jokes-charm-2022-3

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